Having given in to the pressure by the residents of the surrounding areas, the government decided to move an asphalt plant from Tseri and Dhali to the Vasiliko area, prompting protests by the nine village communities that would be close to it. Four of the objecting communities would be between 1,500 to 500 metres from the proposed site of the plant, said the community leader of Kalavasos, Lefteris Fokas.
Fokas hit the nail on the head, when he said to the Cyprus News Agency: “What is happening is the moving of a harmful unit from one area to assist certain residents – and it is the right thing for the government to do – and it is moved elsewhere, that is shifting the problem to four other communities.”
This cannot be the answer. If the government deemed the asphalt plant so harmful for Tseri and Dali residents it decided to have it moved, how could it justify the new proposed location, a kilometre away from three other villages? Would it not be harmful for the residents of Mari, Kalavasos, Asgata and Pentakomo?
Fokas said the nine communities would not accept the move and if the government decision was not revoked by September 1, residents would block all access to the Vassiliko energy centre. He also accused the Town Planning department of deceiving the communities, which had agreed to the creation of an industrial zone in the area on condition that no asphalt factory would be moved there.
All these problems stem from the failure of successive governments to draft regulations and set criteria for the operation of manufacturing plants. There are methods and systems that minimise, if not eliminate, the pollution caused by factories. Are anti-pollution systems in place? If the government ensured a factory caused no pollution – bringing in independent experts to carry out an environmental impact study – no factory would have to be relocated.
When a factory is proven not to be harmful to people’s health and was not damaging the environment there would be no justification in moving it. Unfortunately, too many dubious decisions have been taken, causing people to distrust the authorities and their evaluations of environmental consequences.
The first requirement is for government and state bodies to gain the public’s trust, by doing everything to protect people and the environment. Commissioning reliable environmental and health impact studies, before a licence is given for a factory to be set up in a location, should be the first step. Second, anti-pollution systems would have to be in place for an operating licence was granted. Third, there should be regular inspections, ensuring pollution, if any, is negligible and not a threat to anyone.
This is how the NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) problem can be tackled and not by moving a plant from one location to another.